I was sent a review galley of Good Morning, Destroyer of Men’s Souls by Nina Renata Aron. The title immediately interested me and the beautiful cover drew my eye, as it is even more impressive in color. This is a memoir about love, addiction, codependency, and women.
If you’ve heard one addict story, you’ve heard a thousand; man made homeless from his drug problem gets clean and makes his fortune, teens stealing from their parent’s purse to fund their habits, people finding their loved ones cold and blue after an overdose. There’s a million stories with a variety of endings. The public is fascinated with the stories of addicts (that’s not to say that the public is enamored with HELPING addicts, just poking and prodding them for their “journey”). What we hear about less, is the perspective of the loved ones of addicts. You might hear a testimonial here and there, but we rarely get into how deeply one’s life is affected by loving and taking care of an addict. Nina makes a comment about how the family members are just usually just seen as supporting cast in the story. I think this is an important narrative that she brings to light. Aren’t their lives torn apart? Aren’t they affected by depression, by the money drain that comes with taking care of an addict, by the instability and havoc that an addict can impose upon their lives? They are working, cleaning, nurturing, and worrying while the throes of addiction grasp the person that they love.
In Good Morning, Destroyer of Men’s Souls, Nina highlights her childhood, where she was forced to take on the responsibility of an adult at a young age in the midst of her parents’ divorce and her sister’s growing addiction to drugs. She watched her mom date and nurture a drug addict for close to a decade after her father. This habit of nurturing an addict, which seems to have been psychologically instilled into her at a young age, follows her into her adulthood. She reunites with an old flame and is absolutely consumed by him. Nina is very honest with us. She cheats on her husband and trades her financially stable, solid, predictable life for the instability and at times, excitement, that comes from loving an addict. By the end of the book, Nina has come to terms with the fact that her codependency is putting her children at risk.
This is one of those books that is hard to read because you want to shake Nina and yell, “leave him! What is wrong with you? There’s children involved!” That’s part of the issue though, obsessive love doesn’t make sense. You can say that family and friends are enablers —and they are, to an extent— but what is the alternative? Seeing your loved one on the street, their body rotting from misuse, starving, dying alone. An addict will rarely be forced by others into fighting their addiction. Nina understand this, and knows there’s people out there that can cut someone off as soon as their offers of help are being abused, and I think she understands there’s a strength in that. She was not one of those people. Her whole life she’s been conditioned to help the people around her, to the detriment to herself, her kids, her stability.
Nina speaks with a clear, poignant voice. She’s that rare type of person that can look upon her past with a keen sense of awareness. I think those of us that are aware of our trauma tend to be a bit sadder. Though I haven’t ever been in a codependent situation with an addict, I have been in a codependent relationship with someone that adamantly ignored their own trauma’s existence, which spurred into a toxic, harmful relationship. I related heavily to Nina’s talk of obsessive love, to the addiction of the adrenaline that an unstable relationship provides, of how a calm relationship can be difficult to adjust to after. She is also a middle child, like myself, and talks about how that made her more likely the peacemaker, the pleaser. Less likely to say no, more likely to say yes. I could see a lot of myself in her descriptions even though I didn’t have the same experience.
There’s also a theme of female empowerment here. Women are often the ones caring for people at their own expense, but most of our growth comes from when we are alone. Nina watches her mother blossom after the end of her relationship with an addict. When she ends her own relationship, she is able to provide a secure and stable life for her kids. It can be hard to find the line between empathy for others and respecting the needs of our own lives, but there’s a strength in both. There’s a really lovely quote about women becoming themselves in the space where men aren’t, that I’d love to include after publication.
I must admit, there were a few moments that I glazed over. There was a cycle of attending Al-Anon while alternatively berating Al-Anon. I’m sure this would be more interesting to people that have gone through this cycle, though. There were also moments that our author skipped around and then kept going back to parts of her life that she had previously talked about. Some of those moment seemed like they would have been more interesting to address this chronologically instead of tearing us away from the current topic to revisit. These were some of the only flaws I could see. Ultimately, I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
There’s some beautiful quotes from this book that I’d love to share but I am obligated to wait until after publication. I will repost with quotes at that time. Good Morning, Destroyer of Men’s Souls will be published April 21st, 2020. Thank you Crown Publishing for the opportunity.